Anita Sharp-Bolster shows us essentially two sides of the same person in the two different roles of Christine in “The Two Mrs. Carrolls” (1947) and Hattie Quimp in “Going My Way” (1945). Able to run a characterization along a knife edge, this actress could skew a role like laying a perfect bunt down the third base line. It’s never more evident than in comparing Christine and Hattie.
Both are sharp, (well, yes), both are curt, but Christine’s bluster is funny where Hattie’s interfering, gossipy, resentfulness towards Father O’Malley played by Bing Crosby, and her neighbors, makes her unpleasant. She is the neighborhood witch.
Christine, the maid for Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck in the suspenseful story of an artist planning to kill his second wife in the same manner he killed his first wife, is more like comedy relief. Her mouthing off to Stanwyck, who shrugs aside Christine’s manner with a smile, is the release valve of the movie. Yet, her comedy is not broad; it is contained and controlled. She could easily become Hattie in an instant, but she plays it neatly and her remarks in her thin-as-broth Irish accent sound comically ironic rather than scathing and shrewish.
A dark, thin, angular woman, Miss Sharp-Bolster played a lot of maids, cleaning ladies and housekeepers, and walk-on parts identified as “Woman” in a career that lasted several decades. Her gothic appearance and voice perhaps made her a natural for her appearances on the TV suspense soap “Dark Shadows.” She was a “type” who could play against type if the occasion arose.
The interesting thing is that Christine and Hattie are not that far apart. Not really. There is just enough gossamer humanity between them that makes them seem so different.
Pulp #43 -- May 21, 2013
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